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Unilap Cuts Through Capacity Backlog With Vollmer

Clare Hollister

Almost 50 years ago South Yorkshire Saw & Tool Co, a small saw blade sharpening and ancillary supply company first opened its doors for business. Wind forwards half a century and the Doncaster manufacturer that started working out of a two-bay garage has evolved into one of the UK’s leading saw blade and round tool manufacturing and servicing companies for the woodworking industry.

Unilap utilises its automated CNC technology to manufacture everything from circular saw blades, TCT and PCD tipped rotary tools and solid carbide tools. To manufacture the countless product lines with thousands of new, re-sharpened and serviced tools being delivered each week, the company has increased its Vollmer plant list to 11 Vollmer machines. Adding to the portfolio that already includes QM, CHD, CHX, QXD and QWD models, the Doncaster manufacturer purchased a Vollmer CHX840 with an HS loading system in April 2022. This was rapidly followed by a Vollmer QXD250 with the HC5 loader in July and then a Vgrind 260 with an HC4 loading system in October. 

The reasoning behind the CHX840 and the QXD250 was simple. The automated CHX840 saw blade sharpening machine was purchased to add unmanned ‘lights-out’ running and alleviate capacity on the 22-employee company’s other saw blade manufacturing and servicing machines. Likewise, Unilap already had a nine-year-old Vollmer QXD200 machine running around the clock, so upgrading to a brand-new QXD250 would add capacity. It would also support the rapid growth and give continuity of supply in the event of planned maintenance or machine downtime on the existing QXD200. 

 As Unilap Managing Director, Carl Hughes says: “We have been buying Vollmer machines for over 40 years and we love the brand. The build quality, innovation, reliability and the ability to outperform all other machines is what keeps us buying Vollmer. The new machines are more user-friendly, productive, flexible and capable than ever before. The strides forward in technology from Vollmer compared to our older existing machines is phenomenal.”

Unilap wanted a machine capable of producing saw blades of 180mm diameter and smaller. This would leave the existing CHD machines to automatically process larger saws whilst alleviating capacity pressure on the manually loaded saw blade sharpening machines – the Vollmer CHX840 with the HS automation system was the perfect fit. Before the arrival of the CHX840, an employee would produce upward of 200 saw blades a week by manually loading a saw blade sharpening machine for 8 to 10 hours a day. 

Contributing to the success of the business in a manner equally impressive as the arrival of the CHX840 is the new QXD250 machine with its HC5 automation system. The new QXD250 was installed to underpin the growth of the rotary PCD tipped tool division and before the arrival of the QXD250, the existing Vollmer QXD200 machine was running 24 hours a day and 6 days a week. This gave the company no opportunity to grow its production of specialist rotary tools. 

The final machine of the three to arrive at Unilap was the Vollmer Vgrind 260 with an HC4 loading system that can accommodate up to 158 round shank tools. With its unique multi-layer machining concept that has two vertically positioned grinding spindles on the C-axis pivot point, the move to a new machine concept was a daunting prospect for Unilap – but the company now wishes it made the move sooner. 

Unilap produces an ever increasing quantity of compression cutters for the woodworking and composite sectors. However, these ‘up cut down cut’ tools incorporate a more complex geometry than standard tools. That was until the arrival of the Vgrind 260, as Bob adds: “To prevent delamination on surfaces, the compression tools have two opposing geometries on a single tool, which can pose more of a challenge with the programming process. However, the Numroto software suite on the Vgrind 260 makes the programming and production of compression tools and other complex geometry tools very simple. The intuitive guidance through the process enables us to programme and produce these tools with ease, and this is further streamlining our output and cutting our lead times with complex tools.”  

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